Portland announces finalists for superintendent role

May 11—The search for a superintendent to lead the state's largest school district looks like it's coming to a close. The Portland school department released the names of two finalists for the position on Thursday.

Ryan Scallon, a Philadelphia school district assistant superintendent, and Eric Moore, senior advisor to the Minneapolis schools superintendent, both have significant experience working in urban school districts and, according to the school district, histories of centering equity in their work.

The school district superintendent search process began at the end of 2022, with planning for stakeholder input and initial candidate recruitment. A team of a dozen members of the Portland community, including district board members, educators, staff, students, graduates, parents and the head of the district's teachers union, have been leading the effort, working with executive search firm Alma Advisory Group to find and vet the right person to take the helm.

Scallon and Moore were chosen from 47 candidates, said Sarah Lentz, the chair of both the superintendent search committee and the school board. The minimum salary for the position is $170,000.

"The Board and Superintendent Search Committee are extremely excited to bring these candidates forward to the community," said Lentz in a news release. "While we wish there were more gender diversity, these candidates emerged at the top of our rigorous selection," Lentz said of the two male finalists. "We believe their strengths, experiences, and commitment to equity are solid and impressive. Both finalists are an excellent fit for the district."

Moore was the subject of an investigation by the Minneapolis school department in 2022 regarding a text message exchange between himself and the head of the Minneapolis teachers union while he was on the team negotiating a new contract with the union.

Moore, the district's senior accountability, research and equity officer at the time, texted Minneapolis teachers union President Greta Callahan asking if she would support him taking the role of interim superintendent. The district investigated the communication and found no wrongdoing. School district officials said they could not provide further information Thursday.

The search committee in Portland learned of the incident during the search process and, as Moore's current district found no wrongdoing, decided to move forward with his candidacy, Lentz said.

"Moore has been open and forthcoming to our requests for more information and we now have a more complete understanding of what transpired and why," Lentz wrote. When asked to elaborate on the search committee's understanding of the incident, Lentz responded, "As we are still in a deeply competitive process with two candidates, I urge you and others to participate in the process to understand more about Mr. Moore and his experiences in Minneapolis."

Moore holds a bachelor's degree in English and education from Langston University in Oklahoma, a masters of public affairs from the University of Minnesota and is currently working toward his Doctor of Education in educational policy and administration, also from the University of Minnesota. He anticipates finishing the degree this year.

Moore has been working in education administration for almost his entire career, taking some brief breaks to work in education research and advocacy and to continue his education. His past roles include director of student services and diversity at a Minnesota school district that currently serves around 40,000 students and administrative positions in the Minneapolis public school system, which he joined in 2013, including senior office of accountability, research and equity and interim chief of academics.

Scallon holds a bachelor's degree in economics with a concentration in management from University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school, a master's in education from the University of Pennsylvania and a Doctorate in Education from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Scallon started his career as a classroom educator, teaching at public schools in Philadelphia and Milwaukee. After getting his master's, he moved into administrative roles. Over the years he has been assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and academic officer. He has experience working with school districts that, like Portland Public Schools, have significant numbers of multi-lingual learners and students receiving specialized services.

The new superintendent will take the reins from Melea Nalli and Aaron Townsend, Portland's interim co-superintendents, neither of whom applied for the job. Nalli and Townsend have been serving in their roles since January, following the resignation of former superintendent Xavier Botana. Botana was originally scheduled to leave his job at the end of the school year but in December submitted his resignation amid a district-wide payroll crisis in which hundreds of employees were paid incorrectly or late, sometimes by months.

In a statement after the board vote, Botana, who was hired in 2016, said he recognized his responsibility for the payroll issues but that he was also proud of many of the things he accomplished during his time as superintendent, including his management of the pandemic, support of marginalized groups and longevity with the district compared with some of his predecessors.

The superintendent candidates are scheduled to be in Portland on May 17 and 18 to meet with panels of staff, community members, students and other stakeholders. The meetings will be livestreamed, recorded and available until May 20 for community members to watch and provide feedback to the district. The search committee is scheduled to make a final recommendation to the board on May 23, and the board hopes to announce its decision by May 30, the district said. The chosen candidate is scheduled to begin on July 1.